Sunday, November 29, 2015

Movies with great beginnings and disappointing middle and endings

A re-post from many years ago...

The 2010 movie, HEREAFTER, opens with an extraordinary sequence. You’ve probably seen the trailer. A giant tsunami rips through a Southeast Asian resort. SPOILER ALERT: You don’t want to be on the beach that day.

The giant wave advances past a luxury hotel and roars through the town, destroying everything in its wake. It’s awesome and terrifying. Sensational filmmaking. Fortunately for the actors, Clint Eastwood was directing. He usually gets it in two or three takes. Imagine poor Ms Cecile de France, who gets swept along like a rag doll, hearing: “Okay. From the top, everybody. Take 46. Cue the water!”

The only trouble with that sequence is… the rest of the movie is dull and lifeless by comparison. And it got me thinking about other movies that had amazing beginnings but fell flat after that. You go into a theater, it starts, you’re blown away, you think you’re in for a really great ride, and then the movie just fizzles.

Probably the greatest example of this is SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Spielberg’s depiction of the Normandy Invasion is maybe the most gripping twenty minutes on film. You watch it and say, “Y’know, I think I’d prefer the tsunami.” But once the doughboys land the movie turns into this trumped up story.

That first sequence was so effective that Spielberg could have come on the screen himself and said, “Well, folks. That’s what war is really like. Pretty fucking incomprehensibly horrific, wouldn’t you say? I don’t know what else there really is to add. I mean, every soldier had his own story and many are compelling and heartbreaking, but let’s face it – after that invasion – the scope and devastation – how am I gonna follow one or two guys and still have the same impact? I’m good but I’m no David Lean. So instead of making you sit for another hour and a half of “more of the same but not as good”, I’m gonna just let you go. I’m guessing these images I just showed you are going to stay with you for awhile. That’s good. Go have coffee and talk about the brutality of war. Maybe head home and go to that new internet thingy all the kids are raving about and search for information on D-Day. Anyway, thanks for coming. Sorry it was so short, but I’ll make it up to you. BRIDGE OF SPIES will be twice as long as it should be.”

What other movies can you think of that had great beginnings but never lived up to its promise? Here are a few that I can think of:

BODY HEAT – Steamy and sexy for the first twenty minutes. My glasses fogged up. If only they didn’t then get into the story.

Most of the last 20 Bond movies. Wow zowie action sequences that had nothing to do with the plot, followed by Tim Dalton or Pierce Brosnan thwarting supervillains and rescuing Denise Richards (who, we’re supposed to believe in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, is a noted nuclear physicist).

I loved the first half-hour of INDIANA JONES 4 (the real title is too long and doesn’t mean anything anyway). I wish Spielberg had broken in and made a speech in that one too.

FULL METAL JACKET – Stanley Kubrick’s first act in basic training was riveting. Then they go to Vietnam and since they couldn’t take the Drill Sergeant (the great R. Lee Ermey) along with them the movie goes flying off in fifteen different directions. Their “shit was definitely flaky” as the DI might say.

And finally, TOUCH OF EVIL – Disappointing movie and Charlton Heston playing a Mexican is laughable, but this opening tracking shot is nothing short of phenomenal. Especially when you consider it was made in 1958, well before Industrial Light & Magic. Directed by Orson Welles before he succumbed to ego and Pinks’ hot dogs.

Okay, so help me add to the list.

67 comments:

Bill Crider said...

I still can't believe the so-called Academy denied Denise Richards an Oscar® for her role as Christmas Jones.

Andy Rose said...

I think Welles was well under the influence of hot dogs by the time he made Touch of Evil. The character he played is deliberately portrayed in the film as being grotesquely out of shape.

Question Mark said...

How about a movie that goes south after not just the first scene, but the opening credits? Watchmen had one of the most clever and thematically on-point credits sequences of all time, but the rest of the movie wasn't nearly as creative.

"Sunshine," a Danny Boyle sci-fi movie from 2007 with a cast full of people who were on the verge of stardom (Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Cillian Murphy). The first half is amazing, setting itself as one of the legitimately best sci-fi movies ever made...then things really go off the rails.

Very true about 'Saving Private Ryan.' The opening 20 minutes are incredible and then the film becomes one of 100 other generic war movies about a group of randomly-assembled guys from all walks of life having to join together. For all of the outcry at the time, Shakespeare in Love as 1998's Best Picture is a rare instance of the Academy getting it right.

MikeK.Pa. said...

" I’m good but I’m no David Lean." "BRIDGE OF SPIES will be twice as long as it should be.”
With comments like these, I'm guessing you won't be writing Spielberg's next epic.

"Steamy and sexy for the first twenty minutes.My glasses fogged up."
Mine did, too - and I wasn't wearing any.

"Directed by Orson Welles before he succumbed to ego and Pinks’ hot dogs."
The only career I can think was as wasted, in terms of potential, was Richie Allen's.

Earl Boebert said...

Your observation about Saving Private Ryan is spot on. I think another thing that weakened it was that Spielberg failed to convey the enormous significance of the invasion. For all the sanitization and hokum Zanuck put in The Longest Day, he made it clear that this was about the liberation of Europe and the continuation of western civilization. And one does not have to give up the focus on a small group to get that message across: Fuller did it brilliantly at the end of The Big Red One, aided by the gritty authenticity of Lee Marvin's performance.

Bill Avena said...

"No movie of mine ever ended in a whimper!" -Giancarlo Gianinni as the Italian producer in CQ.

Diane D. said...

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is indeed the greatest example of what you are talking about today--I have rarely been so disappointed in a movie.

And to Question Mark:
What a treat to read something so wonderful about my favorite movie of all time--SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. It is the only time I have ever thought all the negativity about a movie could only be due to a pathological cynicism having taken over the Western World or a complete lack of imagination. I usually doubt myself when I like a movie that most critics decry, but not that movie.

Markus said...

Respectfully disagree about Saving Private Ryan. There are a few things wrong with the movie, but the fact that the dynamics change over its course isn't one of them. You obviously don't want to go full-throttle full-volume all the time. That would be a beginner's mistake. To go from that shocking introduction to a relatively relaxed setting to a more subdued and psychological yet existential horror is quite okay, because that's exactly what it was like for plenty of the GIs who landed on that day.

@Earl Boebert:
He didn't "fail" convey the significance of D-Day. He simply chose not to, simply because that isn't necessary at all. That wasn't the story he wanted to tell. He's telling the story of individual people and a group of guys in their core environment, partly from their perspective. You absolutely do not require a big-picture historic narrative to frame that beyond what's there.

dan o said...

how about Flight? the plane lands upside-down. awesome. unfortunately for the survivors, they are stuck in a tedious after school special that steals its ending from the director's previous film.

Jason Roberts said...

Having worked on Saving Private Ryan, I figured I would weigh in a bit. I think your observations are fair and I am not arguing the validity of them. I just want to point out that Steven set out to make an accurate picture of what WWII was really like for soldiers. Yes the first 25 minutes did that. We prepped that movie for a long time. Researched it endlessly and even had Stephen Ambrose as our historical advisor. He actually wasn't trying to make "The Longest Day" that had been done well the first time. He wasn't trying to get a grand message across that these characters changed the world. He was making a personal story about a group of soldiers on a mission that took place immediately after the invasion. Plain and simple. It was all in Graham Yost's script. The invasion gave him a chance to show the immense epic experience of what the war was like and could do to anyone in it. Really though between that and the ending sequence it's really a walk n' talk movie. Also to note: With the exception of several shots, Steven shot the movie completely hand-held. That fell to his Operator Mitch Dubin. During the battle sequences he had the shutter at 180º and then in post desaturated the film to give it it's signature look. To put the audience in the middle of it. So really, it wasn't a war movie as much as it was of a group of men coming of age in the middle of the war. I feel like I am rambling so I will finish it with this: I believe that one can make personal stories about the human condition in the midst of world changing events without making it about their impact to those events. I think of it as an odyssey a journey during wartime. Whether or not that makes for a lousy film over all is subjective.

Fred Vogel said...

"The Player"

Mark986 said...

Not the most highbrow of examples, but Stripes. When they graduated from basic training and went to Germany the wheels came off the cart.

DE said...

@jason: thanks & that's 1 hell of a resume!

Stoney said...

I would have to go with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" especially since animation has advanced so much in the years since. The opening full cartoon is wall-to-wall hilarious. The rest of the movie you spend admiring the technique but not laughing nearly as much.

Paul Dushkind said...

MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL
You think that you're watching a mystery story, based on actual events. All of a sudden, you're watching a ghost story. The earlier scene in a graveyard, depicting Kevin Spacey's character's belief in the supernatural, isn't strong enough to foreshadow that ending.

FROZEN
Most of Frozen is good, entertaining for both children and adults, but it falls apart near the end. It is disqualified from being taken seriously. When the troll says that Anna can only be saved from a magic spell by an act of true love, it's painfully trite. Then four characters knock themselves out trying to rescue Anna. Why aren't those considered acts of true love?

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
I couldn't agree more with Mr. Levine's opinion. It starts out as the most realistic portrayal ever of war. Then it devolves into a war movie, with such melodrama as throwing a grenade into a bazooka barrel. I've seen that before in comic-books, but until I hear otherwise, I'll assume that it has never happened in real life. The characters spend a lot of time considering disobeying orders, which I've been told is unrealistic. Also, the Rangers seem like ordinary Joes, unconvincing as members of an elite squadron.

Stoney said...

Another flick that starts with a hilarious opening scene and then drops the comedy level the rest of the way is "Cats And Dogs". Also, anyone remember a mid-80's comedy "Head Office"?

Anonymous said...

Watched Saving Private Ryan with my father, who was there at the Normandy landing. Said it was quite realistic, if anything not as bad as the real thing, except for the fact that it was necessarily time-compressed. The real invasion terror for the soldiers didn't last minutes, it lasted hours. Rest of the movie to him was so-so. The plot line of their advance didn't make much sense from a tactical standpoint. (I thought there was a subtle Eisner/Disney dig in there, with the Nazi subplot).

The best opening that deteriorated that I ever saw was an early Paul Schrader movie with George C. Scott called Hardcore.
IT is an almost perfect presentation of the conservative Dutch community around Grand Rapids Michigan. Then it just veers off into a silly bad television plot. Many of the Marx Brothers movies, besides Duck Soup, start out a lot better than they finish.

Mike said...

You've alluded to a fine example: Welles himself. Spitting Image made a sketch in which Hollywood's worthy gather round a projector showing Welles' biography in reverse. Starting with F for Fake, it's the ultimate prank.

Pat Quinn said...

Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds. When his son separates and he and his daughter go to Tim Robbin's basement. I remember really wishing that the camera followed the son instead.

Joe Blow said...

A group of young men coming of age in the middle of a war was done to perfection long ago in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (although I am speaking even more of the book than the movie). Few stories have ever conveyed the horror of war better than that one, even though it deals primarily with just this small group of friends and their fates. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN just does not manage to make a compelling story about finding that one man, even though it was a noble cause and could have been a wonderful portrayal of preserving humanity in the middle of war. (IMHO)

Mighty Dyckerson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom said...

Sling Blade. The black-and-white short that spawned the movie is great (and is virtually replicated in the full-length version) but then they have to figure out a story to fill out the rest of the film ... and fail. Watch the first ten minutes, then go do something else, you won't have missed anything.

YEKIMI said...

Mr. Levine, here's a way to block the IP address of the A-hole whose comments you keep having to remove: http://www.mybloggerlab.com/2012/06/how-to-block-ip-address-on-blogspot.html

Sort of a pain in the ass to accomplish but it may be worth it if you want to jump through the hoops.

Mark P. said...

Several tv shows have built up to a climax at the end of the season that simply looks like the writers ran out of time and had to put in something, anything, to tie up loose ends in the final few minutes. In particular, there were invincible enemies with superior intellect and physical abilities that survive multiple elaborate attempts on their lives throughout the season, and are defeated in the final episode only because they're momentarily distracted (Sylar in Heroes season 1, Windmark in the final season of Fringe). It kind of makes the whole season-long arc a disappointment and makes me less likely to watch the series again, even years later.

BigTed said...

The first half of Mike Judge's "Office Space" is a classic that will go down in history as the most quotable workplace comedy ever. The second half -- which hinges on a silly mistaken-identity subplot and a caper borrowed from one of the old "Superman" movies -- nearly throws it all away.

cadavra said...

Andy: Welles wore padding in TOUCH OF EVIL. He'd started getting heavy, but was nowhere near the weight he hit in later years. (And TOUCH OF EVIL "disappointing?" In what universe?)

Spielberg's A.I. starts out intriguingly and then unravels; the last half-hour is easily the most unwatchable thing he's ever directed (and I like him).

Johnny Walker said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt that way about SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. The rest of the movie was too far fetched for me... The US military pulls one son out of the war so a mother doesn't lose all of the sons she has? I really wish such a thing could be true, but after the brutality of the opening sequence it felt like DisneyLand. I think the project began as Spielberg's attempt at making THE SEARCHERS, with Hanks as the grizzled anti-hero -- even more difficult to buy into as it was with Wayne -- and then he accidentally stumbled upon creating the most realistic depiction of the Normandy Landings ever filmed. Makes your wonder if, once he realised he couldn't shy away from the brutality of the opening (out of respect, I think), he wouldn't have preferred to have gone back and and change the rest of the story to something that would match better.

Nice update of this post, btw :)

Chris said...

I will always say Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong. I actually enjoyed the set up in New York City, a joke about Fay Wray and a bit of camera geekery as they arrive on Skull Island. Which makes it even more of a shame that everything after that, all the stuff that should have made my not-so-inner-eight-year-old bounce in my seat in pre-adolescent, dino-geek rapture was flat out dull. I actually left the film during the dinosaur chase action sequence because it was so shoddily made and so long that I was bored. I think it's the only time I've left a movie as an adult.

Liggie said...

I'll go off the beaten path: "Airplane 2". The first 10-15 minutes are as gut-bustingly funny as the original, but with a very few exceptions the gags fall flat.

Paul Vigna said...

"The Phantom Menace." It had a great opening: "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." Everything after that smelled worse than rotten eggs.

H Johnson said...

The Wizard of Oz started out so well as a realistic portrayal of life on an American farm, then whoosh! Flying houses, witches, evil monkeys and color! Just lost me after that chick's nap ended.

Aloha

Anonymous said...

Agree, Private Ryan is total B.S. after the opening sequence. Just started reading J. Donovan's book on which the movie "Bridge of Spies" is supposedly based, and again Spielberg has re-written his own version of what happened from beginning to end. The real dialog of the Able character is much more compelling that the "cutey pie" stuff in the movie.

Diane D. said...

Johnny Walker
Actually SPR is based on a true story. The U.S. Military has a Sole Survivor Policy that was not passed until 1948, but it was carried out multiple times in World War 2 as unofficial policy. It has been used several times in Iraq and Afghanistan also. I bet if you check, England has a similar policy.

Pseudonym said...

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. I don't need to explain why.

Stephen Marks said...

The Full Monty - started out strong then petered out, I feel like I got the shaft when they didnt have the balls to actually show anything at the climax, why am I so cocksure about this, because the shortcomings were evident when compared with that guy who streaked across the stage at the Oscar's actually showing his manhood, throwing Ms. Taylor into a fit and providing Mr. Niven with the greatest pre written ad lib in the history of tv.

Mike T. said...

Ken, this is unrelated to the topic at hand, but I thought you might be interested to know that my pastor used the "Hawkeye goes blind" episode of M*A*S*H as a sermon illustration this morning. In fact, he led off his homily with a brief description of it and summarized the speech you wrote for Hawkeye.

The sermon, by the way, was on Zechariah, the priest who, according to the book of Luke, was struck dumb after disbelieving an angel's message that he would have a son (John the Baptist) in his old age. His speech was restored once the baby was born and he agreed to name it as the angel had told him. The connection to Hawkeye, of course, was the loss of one of the senses and the things one can learn from the other, heightened senses as a result.

Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

Scream - the beginning with Drew Barrymore is 12 of the most intense minutes of film Ive ever seen. The rest of the movie is pretty great but boy is that beginning incredible!

Rich said...

Amazed no one has mentioned "Broadcast News." Some of the best dialogue ever written for a feature motion picture, great casting with William Hurt, Holly Hunter and Albert Brooks. The ENTIRE PLOT is asking the question whether Holly Hunter will follow her head (Brooks) or her heart (Brooks). Then in the greatest cop-out in movie history, director James Brooks punts, drags in a deus ex-machina about falling ratings, and pretends he never asked the question in the first place. Don't know if that decision was made by evil corporate suits, but it wrecked the movie for me.

Anonymous said...

As far as comedies, The Man with Two Brains started out on a high note only to fade down the stretch.

Donald Benson said...

Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" -- Amazing spectacle at the beginning and a great battle at the end. In the middle, way too much of the matronly fairies.

On a technical and visual level, the whole movie is a marvel, and the fairies and other secondary characters are in fact beautifully done and well written. But the title character is barely seen after a single (admittedly lavish) musical sequence. She's sexier than Snow White, but we learned little else except she's a nice girl. The prince is likewise a near cypher; he's in love with the princess after one song. When he finally takes on the evil fairy and the dragon, we don't know if he's just unreasonably brave (or stupid), or he's a kid who's struggling to be brave enough.

Disappointing in a different way is "April in Paris". Almost right out of the gate, Ray Bolger has a spectacular tap dance number, and Doris Day owns the title song in a single long take. Then a weak plot gets weaker, the big numbers are all gone, and it limps to a B-movie happy ending.

William said...

Melancholia by Lars von Trier opens strong and goes downhill fast.

Bill O said...

Touch Of Evil has an even more impressive unbroken shot in the middle of this "disappointing" film.The planting of the dynamite in the bathroom. Enuff with the taking shots at Chuck and OW's weight. As someone mentioned, it's still mostly illusion then. He did Man In The Shadows the same year for comparison.

Johnny Walker said...

@Diane D - Thanks for letting me know about that! I looked it up and there was indeed at least one case during WWII where a family had a brother sent home after the loss of his other siblings, and others where the parents successfully petitioned. Amazing to know. Thanks for sharing that. (I wouldn't be surprised if lots of the other aspects of the story were taken from real life -- but that part was always the bit I struggled with the most).

Loosehead said...

Can't understand people saying Saving Private Ryan was awesome for 20 minutes, then "meh" for the rest of the film. After the end of the opening battle there are at two scenes I cannot watch and have to either leave the room or fast-forward past. Am I wrong that the whole idea of the film, apart from making money for all concerned which I don't think was paramount in Spielbergs mind, was to give those who are too young to really appreciate what all these pensioners went through, and also why they often are unable to talk about it - the "Earn this" message to the everyman Ryan, representing the millions they saved.
As far as I am concerned, Spielbergs greatest success with this movie is to make the audience (me, certainly) feel physically ill when you know the final battle in the village is about to happen, and you are about to be put through it all again. The grinding of metal as the tanks approach is something that makes me queasy to this day, and I understand in part what they must have felt.

Diane D. said...

Johnny Walker
If you hadn't specifically heard of the policy, I'm not surprised you didn't know about it, and I can understand in today's world why it would have seemed an absurd, Disney-like notion. I wonder how many Americans don't know about the policy, even though one of Abraham Lincoln's most famous documents is "Letter to Mrs. Bixby", which he wrote on hearing that she had lost all 5 of her sons in the Civil War. The unofficial ( and then official) "Sole Survivor Policy" is thought to have been invoked over the years largely because of that letter, or at least it used to be cited at such times. With today's media, we rarely even hear about such noble actions being taken, let alone any historical reference to a President expressing gratitude to a mother who "had laid so great a sacrifice on the alter of freedom."

Barry Rivadue said...

A spritely opening scene with Scarlett on Tara's porch in GONE WITH THE WIND, and then it all goes to hell for almost four hours.

Cedric Hohnstadt said...

"The World's End" (starring Simon Pegg) starts out with a ton of potential. Pegg plays an entertaining but pathetic man child, one of those guys who was never able to emotionally move on from the glory days of high school. After a failed suicide attempt he decides maybe he can relive the past by fast-talking his four middle-aged high school pals into a reunion of sorts. It's a strong character setup. But then the town gets overrun with blue-blooded body snatchers and the movie ends with a worldwide apocalypse brought about by aliens. The movie doesn't take itself too seriously which makes you go along for the ride, yet the situations are ridiculous enough that it undermines what could have been a powerful character piece.

"The Dark Knight Rises" starts with a high-adrenaline kidnapping on a plane that keeps you on the edge of your seat and introduces us to a villain is genuinely terrifying. But the movie never really gets back to that level of thrill.

McAlvie said...

In fairness, Saving Private Ryan was not about the D Day Invasion. If the movie had not opened with that scene, it still would have been a great story. And if you think nothing else happened, then you missed a whole lot of the movie. I still get cold chills thinking about one of the scenes. It left an indelible impression on me. Frankly, the first 15 minutes was so overwhelming, if it had lasted much longer I would have had to leave the theater.

I suppose it might be fair to say that the opening scene set you up to think it was going to be a different kind of movie, like watching Bruce Willis get shot, blown up, and beat up constantly through one of the Die Hard movies. But then again, if you thought it was going to be another Die Hard movie and were disappointed that Tom Hanks didn't get shot enough or blown up, you should stick with Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, and Fast and Furious franchises, and stay away from anything that smacks of actual history.

Andrew said...

I'm thankful for this conversation about SPR. I have had people glare at me in stunned silence when I told them that I thought SPR was overrated.

But I also believe the final battle scene was just as powerful (though on a smaller, more intimate scale) as the D-Day opening. By then we knew the characters, and watching them get picked off was a terrible punch in the gut (the fundamentalist sniper getting blown up in the tower; the knife fight, while the reporter guy watches and can do nothing; etc.). I would say the movie had a brilliant beginning and ending, but the middle was mush.

And we might be forgetting that the beginning of the movie was not D-Day. It was a Hallmark card movie of an old man visiting a cemetery, along with his perfect suburban family, with Coplandesque music playing in the background. I found it very contrived and off-putting. Same with the ending - "Earn this," and then you find out the old man was Ryan. When Matt Damon was giving his speech to Tom Hanks about his upbringing, I just wanted him to shut up. Sorry, now I'm rambling...

Pat Reeder said...

A lot of movies these days careen downhill fast right after the opening credits. And it's tempting to say "The Phantom Menace," but that turned into a $200 million episode of "Big Bad Beetleborgs" just a few minutes in (or maybe it sucked immediately, but it took a few minutes for my high hopes to wear off. I'm not watching it again to find out). But I think my wife and I would both agree that the ultimate example of a movie that started with a really interesting premise and production design and later crashed like the Hindenburg was "A.I." Best part was when the android kid declared, "I'm not a robot!" so he could post on this blog.

To Johnny Walker: You might also check out the movie "The Fighting Sullivans." It's based on the true story of five brothers who were all killed at once when the ship they were serving on together was sunk. That helped inspire the Sole Survivor Policy.

blinky said...

OK then, how about movies that had great beginnings and GOT EVEN BETTER? Is there even such a thing?

Neumms said...

Touch of Evil does have the terrific ending, with Marlene Dietrich, as a Mexican hooker, walking away saying "Adios" in a German accent.

Roger Clifton said...

For me, Super Troopers comes to mind.
That opening. The meow scene. The car chase. brilliant.

Rest of the movie, meh.

Frank Beans said...

Strongly agree about FULL METAL JACKET--that must be the most watched-the-first-20-minutes-but-ignored-the-last-hour movie ever made. I think every guy of my generation (Gen X) has the whole Lee Ermey drill Sergeant sequence practically memorized.

Also agree with the commenter who pointed out STRIPES--although it was extraordinarily solid and consistent for at least an hour, the whole Europe thing seemed tacked on. My theory has long been that the movie was supposed to end with the basic training "razzle dazzle" sequence, but when it came to filming it the writers realized (or, more likely, were told by the studio) that it wasn't long enough for a feature film, so they hastily added the silly Europe part. Still, all in all, it doesn't ruin the movie--it just pads it out and detracts from some of its poignancy.

Frank Beans said...

@ Blinky:

"OK then, how about movies that had great beginnings and GOT EVEN BETTER? Is there even such a thing?"

The freshest example on my mind would be AMERICAN HUSTLE, which grabs you with its intensity of plot and character from the opening, and never lets you go. I know that the movie is considered overrated by some (ahem), though I happen to think it's one of the best movies of the past decade at least.

blogward said...

Isn't this about poorly established characters being insufficient to keep the audience engaged once the story or the conflict is in progress? Spielberg is indeed a serial offender in this regard. Movies that DON'T fizzle out have memorable characters that we quickly feel strongly about, not ones that might as well be wearing numbered football jerseys.

Buttermilk Sky said...

The task of finding the real Private Ryan and sending him home was given to a single chaplain, not a rifle company (they were a bit preoccupied with the German army in the days following D-Day). I suppose market research indicated that people didn't want to watch Tom Hanks give last rites and ask "Have you seen Private Ryan?" for two and a half hours. So, a standard war story was created. I agree about the weak ending, which perhaps parallels the end of SCHINDLER'S LIST, where the people he saved and their descendants walk past Oskar Schindler's grave. But SPR didn't earn it.

I thought BEING JOHN MALKOVICH had a terrific beginning and middle, and no idea how to end.

halojones-fan said...

Sure, you don't want to be gonzo from start to finish, but it is also true that when eating supper we don't eat the pie *first*.

halojones-fan said...

Flight would have been so much better if they'd cut the airplane sequence through the movie rather than all up front.

Also the movie makes a lot more sense when you realize it's just a big ad for AA. That's why they put so much emphasis on "act of God", which is a huge part of AA.

halojones-fan said...

"WALL-E". Adventures on Trash Earth were really interesting. Adventures in Generic SF Spaceship were much less so.

Anonymous said...

From Jan:

I absolutely agree with you on "Saving Private Ryan": the group of men the story follows were a collection of clichés. So I don't consider it--as so many do--the greatest war film of all time. To everything that Andrew said on 11/30/2015 at 7:28 a.m.: ditto. I'm so delighted to find that I'm not the only one who thought SPR was overrated; I was beginning to think I was. I actually liked "The Thin Red Line" a lot more.

And I also agree with halojones-fan about "Flight." I thought it would have been a much stronger movie if it had ended with him walking into the hearing and had left the outcome unknown.

Jason said...

The knife fight at the end of SPR (particularly the end of the knife fight) is the thing that affected me the most.. even now, years later. I remember the beginning as being intense, and virtually nothing about the middle, but I remember that ending fight pretty clearly. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

No Country for Old Men

Johnny Walker said...

Loosehead: There's a great message behind SPR, no question, and the ending is definitely very moving, too. I just think the opening was so shocking, so explosive, that it was very hard to follow. I also think casting Hanks as a grizzled, broken soldier was a mistake. The scene where the troops are shocked to learn that he was a school teacher back home fell flat for me because that's exactly how I think we all imagine Hanks already. That said, when I try and scrub that image from Hanks from my mind, the film worked much better. (As I said, it reminded me of THE SEARCHERS in that regard -- I found it tough to buy Wayne as a bitter broken man, too.)

Pat: Thanks!

Tommy Gilley said...

Gangs of New York for good and all.

slummingitforthelord said...

"And finally, TOUCH OF EVIL..."

Touch of Evil is a brilliant movie. Nothing disappointing about it.